Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: No Temas A La Muerte

The Book: The Edge of Night by Jill Sorenson

The Particulars: Romantic suspense, Bantam Dell, 2011, In Print

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  While Jill Sorenson is a relatively local author for me, the initial reason why I picked up this book is because the back cover blurb intrigued me.

The Review:  I tend to be very critical of romantic suspense.  Chalk it up to cutting my teeth on mysteries as a teenager.  I'm fine when the romance gets a bit of the short-shift, but the suspense?  Yeah, I tend to get cranky.  Which is actually my biggest gripe with this sub genre.  Too often it tends to operate in a world I don't recognize.  While I can swallow some fantasy elements in contemporaries and historicals - I tend to like my suspense gritty.  And happy day, the author gives me gritty.  She gives me more than enough of it in fact - so much that I think not all romance readers will be as enthralled with this story as I was (mores the pity).

April Ortiz is a young single mother barely scrapping by in Chula Vista, California.  Jenny's daddy (whom she never married - thank the good Lord) is in prison and she does not mourn his absence.  She's working nights in a sleazy nightclub where her uniform is beyond skimpy, and taking college classes to get her degree in social work.  She's stretched beyond thin already, and now it appears she's going to finally have to cut off her mother, whose growing drug problem is getting to be....well....a problem.  This is not a woman who needs more on her plate - but that's what she gets when one of her coworkers is found murdered - raped and strangled - in known gang territory.

Noah Young is a clean cut kid from northern California, raised in a conservative religious family.  The fact that he's now a cop and living in Chula Vista (of all places) is a bit of a shock to his parents - but he wants to make a difference and feels working on the gang unit in this hard area is where he can do the most good.  It's his instincts and observational skills that lead him to the body of a murdered young woman.  Ambitious, and with an eye on moving his way into the homicide unit, he's enthusiastic when the lead detective asks him and his partner to do some follow-up work on the victim.  Which leads him to the nightclub where the victim worked, and April Ortiz. 

Besides the growing attraction between April and Noah, coupled with the conflict that they are really, really from two different worlds - the author also tosses in a secondary romance (of sorts) when Noah's 19-year-old sister drops out of her Christian college and shows up at his front door.  Naturally she falls for an entirely unsuitable young man, who has extremely close ties (platonic, naturally) with April. 

Once I sat down to start this book I practically inhaled it.  The author does a very nice job setting her stage, giving readers wonderful descriptions of the neighborhood - complete with gangs, drugs, and graffiti.  It's easy to understand, growing up as she did, why April wouldn't fall all over her attraction for Noah.  In fact she's extremely guarded and closed off.  Noah is open, earnest, ambitious, and completely gob-smacked by April.  So much so that he can barely keep his eyes off of her when he first arrives at the club.  The secondary romance is also nicely well drawn, adding more conflict to the story because it almost has that "forbidden" quality to it.  Noah's sister is young, sheltered, a touch naive - and not only lands herself in some trouble, but learns that her knight in shining armor is a well-known gang member - April's sort-of brother-in-law, Eric.

The whole time I was reading this book I found myself more than excited by the possibility that it would be fantastic for Lil' Sis' high school English classroom.  It's a neighborhood her students would recognize, with a young twenty-something single mother heroine whose baby daddy is in prison.  And then I got to the sex scenes.  Whoa doggie!  Totally not PG-rated, that's for dang sure.  Although it might be good for the girls to learn that it's OK to expect your man to not be a selfish lover (if ya know what I mean).  Plus, dude - I'm really glad April has more than one screaming orgasm because girlfriend sure deserved them all.

So we have a well-fleshed out suspense thread, interesting characters, operating within a world that isn't Pollyanna white-wash.  And that's kind of where the author gets stuck.  It's not a Pollyanna world she has created, and therefore you have a bit of a bittersweet ending.  The bad guy does get caught, Noah and April do live happily-ever-after - but not everything about this ending is puppy dogs, gum drops and rainbows.  It's just....not.  And that may be an issue for some readers.  I actually appreciated it, because the author "keeps it real."  But if you're a reader who needs everything to be sunny, happy, and tied up in a pretty pink bow at the end?  Yeah, don't say I didn't warn you.

In the end, I really enjoyed this story.  It does have some issues that all romantic suspense novels seem to have (the monologing villain, not enough red herrings for my liking) - but it's exciting, it's highly readable, and has a lot of the elements I like to see in this sub genre but don't always get.   It's also the kind of book I would love to see a sequel for - so go out and buy lots of copies so the author gets a contract to do so.

Final Grade = B

Note: Yes, I live in SoCal and yes, my Spanish is truly terrible.  If the title of this blog post is broken-Spanish Spanish, it's all my fault.  Well, and Google's.


azteclady said...

I did it again! *happy dancing*

(The Spanish is good, no worries)

Hilcia said...

The Spanish is fine, and it caught my attention. :)

The book sounds good too! I've never read Jill Sorenson (although I see her books everywhere). So on my list she goes!

willaful said...

I'm in at Karen Knows Best too! Awesome book, so glad this challenge inspired me to read it!

Rowena said...

Love this book, so glad you enjoyed it Wendy! Those sex scenes are eye catching, don't you think? =)

AnimeJune said...

While I'm not personally a fan of suspense, I *do* like a little grit in the apple pie of happily ever afters - the harder-won it is, the more satisfying I find it.

nath said...

Great review, Wendy! I've been meaning to try Ms Sorenson's post, as I see her quite often around blogland. Wasn't sure about this one, but now, I am :) I'm glad to hear that the suspense is good :)

Leslie said...

Love when I see a good review for a book on my TBR pile! I've been meaning to read this because I like the blurb and I lived in Chula Vista so I'm curious to see what I might recognize.

Carrie said...

I've read most of Sorenson's books and she always delivers. I had a problem with some of the romance-between-minors subplots, but that's my tastes. Overall, Sorenson is a very gifted writer and has always kept me glued to the page. I loved this book, in fact it may be my favorite. Great review!

Wendy said...

Hils: WooHoo! Glad to know my Spanish was OK :)

Willa & AL: Tweeted both your reviews under the @karenknowsbest banner ;)

Rowena: A waffled between a B and a B+ initially, and now I'm thinking I should have added the +. I really DID enjoy it a lot, and I think I'll give it to my Lil' Sis to read. She can make the judgment call on the sex scenes! LOL

AnimeJune: She ties up the primary romance very well - it's a couple of the secondary elements that hang on to the grit. Which I actually really liked here. These characters live in a hard environment. To wave a magic wand and have everything be perfect at the end? Wouldn't have worked for me.

Nath: I really liked it! Next up, I have to try one of her category romances.....

Leslie: You'll have to let us know what you think - especially since you lived in CV!

Carrie: Once I settled down and actually started reading - I whipped right through this one. Really, really enjoyed it, and a nice reminder that I need to give romantic suspense a whirl more often.

Kristie (J) said...

I have this one in the TBR pile and have read several of her books now. I think she writes a very good story and look forward to reading this one. I think it got caught between my switchover to electronic books.